Saturday, 30 March 2013

Easter Egg Decorating at Rococo Chocolates

Rococo Easter Eggs 
I am, like a lot of hormonal women, a huge lover of chocolate. So colossal is this reputable love of chocolate that my go-to bar is far from fancy. Yes, I probably consume Cadbury’s on a daily basis and yes, I am aware of how much of a low class foodie this makes me and no, I am not proud.

So you can imagine how enthralled I was to be invited by Achica to visit the fancy pancy all things delicate and delicious Rococo Chocolates for a class. So I don’t know if you know, but did YOU KNOW that this is where NIGELLA LAWSON goes chocolate shopping?! Let me take you back to that weeknight on the sofa… wine in one hand, remote control in the other - you just switched  over to  Food Network & caught a seductive glimpse of Nigella strolling along Kensington High St (the big red bus place) and she just *casually* pops into a little bespoke shop? Well…Rococo’s is one of them!

Founded in 1983 by Chantel Coady (French?), Rococo Chocolates are the equivalent to Olympic gold medallists in the culinary world. Find them perched in 4 very posh locations in London and Chester, but don’t let this put you off - because the chocolate basically tastes of gold - actual gold.

The purpose of the class was to educate on chocolate and (mine & the boyfriend’s most fun part) decorate Easter eggs! Oh how fitting, no longer do I have to make any hot cross buns for the blog which means Easter = SORTED at mbakes. What is the point of Easter anyway? I’m such a selfish blogger.

Everyone's eggs were so creative & the shop truly lived up to its high expectations , so let me take you on a photo journey of Rococo’s Chocolates… 
Rococo chocolate bars, aren't they gorgeous? 
Oot oooot
Rococo's Mini Eggs - the god of all mini eggs with salted caramel filling!
Bottom left is my take on a Rococo cocoa bean...
Rococo's eggs clearly brought out my creative side
Rococo's beautiful (and delicious) selection of sprinkles and wafers
Anyone for an Earl Grey?
My faith officially restored in the 'cupboard under the stairs'
Rococo's eggs standing on their own two feet - so to speak
So that's it, one of the finest chocolate shops in London - done! Happy Easter everyone, eat yourself into obesity, you're worth it.
Love Em xx

Monday, 25 March 2013

Not So Good For You Granola

On the odd occasion where I will rise from my bed in the morning, granola is my morning saviour. It does this magical thing.  It stops me (and hopefully the general public) from letting off countless and embarrassingly LOUD rumbles from my stomach - at least until lunchtime.

Granola with Raspberries & Yoghurt in a Japanese Blossom Bowl
That’s why I like granola. But there is a lot of granola that I don’t like, take for example M & S granola, the oats like to suck up the moisture in the berry yoghurt in this one, making it a vomit inducing experience in your already sensitive morning mouth. Why can’t they just put it in separate containers? I have also had this sort of thing in Eat and so far Costa has proved to be the only retailer meeting my snobbish granola demands. But at £2 per measly pot, and a ridiculous yoghurt to granola ratio it was only years until I had to make my own. But I warn you now, this stuff is buzz light years away from low calorie, good for you tastes-of-poo granola. It contains a WHOLE jar of honey and a WHOLE tube of maple syrup and I suppose that’s why I’m finding it extremely difficult to type this with a bowl in one hand…

The other great thing about my breakfast granola? It lasts for 1 month. That’s 1 month without a rumbling tummy for those early risers. 

The Recipe
500g rolled oats
100g pumpkin seeds
100g (or optional amount) sesame seeds
150g flaked almonds
425g clear honey
180g maple syrup
120g light brown Tate and Lyle sugar
1 tbsp desiccated coconut
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt

Special equipment
2 large round tins with sides (like a roasting tin)

Enamel Wash Bowl 
The Method

Preheat oven to 180 C.

In a large bowl combine the oats, sesame & pumpkin seeds, almonds, salt and coconut. Set aside.

In a small saucepan on medium heat, add the maple syrup, honey and oil. Stir until warm.

Pour the warmed syrup directly onto the oats and stir with a spoon until everything is coated.

Next, divide the mixture into two and pour into the large round tins. Spread the granola out evenly for an even bake.

Bake for 45 minutes, making sure to stir the granola every 10/15 minutes whilst in the oven to help form 'clumps', if the granola appears a little dry now is the time to add a little extra oil to the mix.

Set aside to cool. Transfer back into a huge bowl much like this one and enjoy for 1 month.

PS, I promise this is a granola post and not a raspberry one!

Love Em xx

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Extra Spicy Carrot and Walnut Birthday Cake

I am all birthday-d out. One sister. One brother in law (to be). Two days. Two birthdays. Too much cake.

For my sister, Monday marked the half-way line to 50. Least impressed was she on the age front that *hopefully* the present and cake front was a little more uplifting. To add to the Sunday-Monday celebrations, on Tuesday we met in London and rummaged through Soho to find the Tate & Lyle Edible Tasting House  followed by  a fat helping of Lobster in bread from the bustling Burger & Lobster - but more on that later…

For brother in law to be it had to be a homemade carrot cake - for two reasons. One; he expressed his love for such cake a week beforehand after enjoying a slice or two of M&S carrot cake and two; after tons of research and a whole blog post later I wanted to face my pathetic fear of cream cheese icing. We all came out of it with a pleasantly surprised BIL and icing successes.  2  peas in 1 delicious pod.

My recipe for cream cheese icing is a winner and I truly urge everyone to give it a go if they have ever come across this kind of gloop before.
This cake is overly nutty, spicy and indulgently rich and the walnuts go a bit soft on the outside when baked in cake, as if they’re fooling you into thinking: “That walnut might be a raisin, how shit would it be if it actually was.” Aaaaand then you are welcomed with the relief of a satisfying crunch.

The thing with CC is that it is such a simple recipe and a tea time favourite that as a baker/person you will find yourself baking it at some point. I’ve made it so many times now (here, and here) that I knew increasing the spice load would make a positively huge difference, an adaptation that I am going to stick to for the rest of my life - or at least until I hit the half-way line to 50.
The Recipe:

For the cake:
I dont know.
300ml sunflower oil or melted butter 
300g finely grated carrots 
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
300g plain/all purpose flour
180g dark brown, soft sugar
120g caster sugar, white
120g chopped walnuts
3 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk 
1/4 tsp salt 
1/4 tsp nutmeg 
1/4 tsp vanilla extract 
1/2 tsp ground ginger 
3 1/2 tsp good quality ground cinnamon
For the icing:
850g icing sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
300g full fat cream cheese
1 tsp lemon juice
For the sides:
180g chopped walnuts

Special Equipment
Deep 23cm/8 inch round baking tin 

The Method:

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees and grease baking tin.

Grate the carrots, chop the walnuts and set aside.

In a freestanding mixer, beat the oil/melted butter and both types of sugar on high speed until pale - about 3 minutes.

In the mean time add the dry ingredients, including the spices, into a medium bowl and stir with a spoon - set aside.

Add the eggs & egg yolk one at a time into the oil mixture and beat for a further 4 minutes until fluffy and pale/r.

On low speed, add the dry ingredients in 3 parts until just incorporated.

Take a metal spoon and fold in vanilla extract, then the carrots and lastly the walnuts.

Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean - maximum baking time is an hour.

Rest the cake as it is for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.

Whilst the cake is cooling, make the icing. 

In a freestanding mixer, throw in all of the ingredients except lemon juice and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Next, add the lemon juice and mixe on a higher speed until thick and smooth. Add more lemon juice to taste.

Once the cake is cooled, cut the cake straight through the middle and level the top. Add 4 heaped tbsp of icing in the middle and smooth with a spatula. Use the same spatula to cover the sides and top, do not worry about making the sides look neat if you are covering them in walnuts.
Walnut wall
Do you have a favourite carrot cake recipe?
Love Em xx

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Bouchon Style Chocolate Chunk and Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chunk and Chip Cookies 
This is THE chocolate chip cookie, by the way. Forget the ultimate soft, chewy, crunchy, snappy, chocolate infused ‘cookie’ and just think about THIS cookie.

This cookie doesn’t have an ultimate quality within it; it is simply THE ‘one’. Much like but *slightly* differing to the love of your life, your favourite pair of jeans that never seem to ever ever get tight (but never say never, right?), the Lost series, the Homeland series,  Modern Family, that mug in the kitchen that no one daren’t sip their tea from, your first pet (yes, even cats). You get where I’m going with this I hope?

I stumbled across this precise, accurate, bordering on scientific jargon slash recipe back in January when I received this HUGE box from Amazon in the post. A couple of knives and mounds of cellotape later revealed the most beautiful red ribbon, a hardback copy of Bouchon Bakery Cookbook, and a festive little card from my manager at Fair Cake containing the most encouraging and thoughtful words I have ever read.

Bouchon - a small chain French bakery in America published this book to give its customers a taste of what happens beyond the counters. The methods are strenuous and are mostly written for those who own a convection oven but they still work beautifully. But If I didn’t have a crappy fan oven, then my cookies wouldn’t have spread out so large! I chilled them and everything!

The cookies weigh in at 150 grams each… that’s 2 in at a time, 20 minutes each totaling to 1 hour 10 minutes of baking time. What’s that you say? That cant’ be that many cookies then?

Nope. 6. 

The Recipe

Adapted from Bouchon Bakery's 'Chocolate Chunk and Chip Cookies'

238g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
134g dark brown sugar
104g granulated sugar
12g black treacle
167g unsalted butter, soft
60g egg - 1 and a bit
107g milk chocolate chips
107g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Sieving chocolate chunks will remove shavings that tend to 'darken' the cookie once baked. 
The Method

In a large bowl whisk together baking soda, salt and flour and set aside.

In a small bowl add the dark and granulated sugars, pour in the treacle and stir away all the lumps - I prefer to use my hands, they do a far better job at dissolving the lumps.

Over a chopping board, sieve the chopped chocolate to remove the little shaves and then stir chocolate chips into the sieve. Set aside.

With a mixer, beat the butter for 4 minutes until very pale and soft.

Add the treacle mixture to the butter and mix for a further 4 minutes until fluffy.

Slowly pour in the egg and mix for a maximum of 30 seconds - any longer than this and the cookies will spread when baked!

Add the flour mixture in two parts, mixing for a maximum of 15 seconds each time. The flour should be just combined.

Fold in the chocolate with a spatula until well incorporated. If you're using a freestanding mixer, pulse the mixture 10 times.

Wrap the dough in clingfilm and refrigerate for half an hour.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 162 degrees C / 325 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into 150g portions and roll each into a ball.

Depending on the size of your baking sheet, bake 2 cookies at a time making sure they are spaced well apart (see top picture for an idea of how to position the cookies in the oven).

Bake for 20 minutes each time - 40 minutes overall for 6 cookies.

Transfer to a cooling rack for 10 minutes and then dig in!
Love Em xx

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Brown Butter Buckeyes

Brown Butter Buckeyes 
I am a lazy girl. 

If you’re lazy too, peanut butter balls might just be the key confection you’ve been looking to make all your life, to fill in the gaps between waking up at 1pm and dinner - on your day off, and not the one you called in sick, of course.

I first lay my eyes on these big balls of beauty a year ago here, I luuuurvved the idea of digestives adding an extra crunch to a sweet peanut butter candy, it works especially well for anyone who is not a fan of crunchy peanut butter.

After a scant bit of research I was fully ready to create my own delicious peanut butter balls (not to be mistaken for the overly sweet cake pop). The name ‘Buckeye’ comes from the Ohio buckeye tree in America and the balls are made to look like an actual buckeye which falls off the tree in the autumn/fall. If you’re having trouble placing an Ohio buckeye tree into your imagination, just think of a conker. So famous buckeyes are to this state, that they have even named a football team after it!

The traditional recipe for a buckeye calls for 6 cups of icing sugar. My recipe has a quarter of that, more cream cheese and a whole lot more of digestives.

Lastly, if you want an even richer nutty flava then it is absolutely necessary to brown that butter! It will add just 20 minutes to your assembly job (because it would be a crime to call this sort of think baking) but you won’t regret it I promise, lazy being. 

Buckeyes with brown butter
The Recipe
Makes 26 Buckeyes 

100g cream cheese
390g smooth peanut butter
145g brown butter* or plain unsalted, melted
300g icing sugar
14 digestive biscuits/350g
For the coating:
350g good quality melted chocolate of your choice

Special Equipment
Vegetable oil (to thin the melted chocolate out)
Electric scales

Note* if you're gonna go ahead and brown the butter, all you need to do is put it in a saucepan on medium heat and whisk away until the frothy goodness turns a light shade of golden brown.
The method

Start with the digestives; there are two ways to get a shardy yet fine-ish crumble with these - which is exactly what you want. You can either give them a 30 second whizz in the food processer (my preferred method, do this if you're lazy and own a dishwasher), or put them all in a sturdy plastic food bag and beat them up with a rolling pin.

In the bowl freestanding mixer or a large bowl and an electric whisk, beat the peanut butter and cream cheese until the mix has lightened in colour - about half a minute.

Add all of the digestive crumbs to the peanut butter, remembering to scrape down the sides of the bowl for even distribution.

Alternately add the brown butter (it doesn't have to be cold when you add it in!) and icing sugar until you get a huge bowl of thick golden crumbly looking stuff. Set aside. The buckeye filling will last in the fridge for 3 days so you can always wrap it in cling film and come back to it when you're ready.

Next, line a fairly large baking sheet with parchment. Depending on how anal you are, grab a pair of scales and weigh out pieces of peanut butter dough at 43-45 grams each. This weight gives a big buckeye.

With each piece of buckeye, stretch out both your palms with the dough in the middle and gently roll it around until eventually, you have a round ball. Do this until you have no dough left and put in the fridge to set for at least 20 minutes.

Melt the chocolate over a ban merie. Add no more than a tablespoon vegetable oil to the melted chocolate and stir in to give a smoother consistency.

Pick up a buckeye with a toothpick and gently immerse the ball 3 quarters the way into the chocolate and roll around until you have what looks like a 'buckeye' (a bit of peanut butter showing at the top).

Put back on the baking tray and take the toothpick out.

Leave to set until the chocolate coating hardens and enjoy for 3 days!
BEFORE I FORGET! Keep your buckeyes in the fridge for ultimate freshness. Although...I highly doubt they will last long enough for that!

Love Em xx
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